Roots: The Gift
|Roots: The Gift|
D.M. Eyre Jr.|
(based on Roots by Alex Haley)
|Directed by||Kevin Hooks|
Louis Gossett Jr.
|Country of origin||United States|
David L. Wolper|
|Running time||100 minutes|
|Original release||11 December 1988|
|Preceded by||Roots: The Next Generations|
Roots: The Gift is a 1988 television film. It is the third installment of the Roots series, which traces the maternal family history of African American author Alex Haley, starting with his fourth great-grandfather Kunta Kinte. The film premiered on ABC on 11 December 1988, with AT&T as the sole national sponsor for the broadcast. LeVar Burton and Louis Gossett Jr. reprise their respective roles of Kunta Kinte and Fiddler. The film takes place between the second and third episodes of the original Roots miniseries.
In December 1775, Cletus Moyer (Brooks) is a free black Northerner in colonial America, working with a pre-Underground Railroad network to help slaves escape captivity. In the days just prior to Christmas, a group of bounty hunters led by Hattie Carraway (Mulgrew) captures Moyer near the Parker plantation in Spotsylvania County, Virginia. Because of his capture, dozens of slaves who have already left their plantations in escape attempts are in danger of being captured as well. Moyer implores two slaves from the nearby Reynolds plantation to take his place: Kunta Kinte (Burton), a Mandinka in his mid-twenties who was captured in what is now the Gambia, and Fiddler (Gossett), an elderly man who was born into slavery. Kunta is eager to help (and to escape himself), but Fiddler is unwilling, fearful of the consequences if they are caught.
After an unsuccessful slave revolt elsewhere in the colony, Moyer and two slaves are hanged by Carraway's men on Christmas Eve, prompting Fiddler to set aside his fear and help Kunta lead the runaway slaves to freedom. Although the pair successfully leads the runaways that night to their next stop on the escape route (a boat waiting at the river) there is only room for one of them, and since neither one wants to go without the other, they both decide to stay. That choice forces them to return to the Parker plantation and manufacture an excuse for their temporary absence. Nevertheless, Kunta and Fiddler are left with the satisfaction of knowing that they helped to give a group of fellow slaves the best Christmas gift of all: freedom.
- LeVar Burton as Kunta Kinte
- Louis Gossett, Jr. as Fiddler
- Shaun Cassidy as Edmund Parker, Jr.
- Jerry Hardin as Dr. William Reynolds
- Kate Mulgrew as Hattie Carraway
- Avery Brooks as Cletus Moyer
- Michael Learned as Amelia
- John McMartin as Edmund Parker, Sr.
- Annabella Price as Sarah Parker
- Fran Bennett as May
- Tim Russ as Marcellus
- Introduction by Alex Haley
Roots: The Gift is notable for featuring four actors who portrayed major characters in Star Trek television shows: Burton (Geordi La Forge from Star Trek: The Next Generation), Brooks (Benjamin Sisko from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine), Mulgrew, and Russ (Kathryn Janeway and Tuvok from Star Trek: Voyager).
Following a brief introduction by Alex Haley, the film opens with a replay of a memorable scene from the second episode of the original Roots miniseries: Following the first of many unsuccessful escape attempts, a prideful Kunta is publicly and mercilessly whipped until he agrees to assume the English name "Toby", which was selected for him by his new owner. Afterwards, Fiddler tends to the semi-conscious Kunta, telling him "You know who you be" and that it does not matter what anyone else calls him.
- Shirley, Don (December 10, 1988). "TV Review: A Disappointing Package in 'Roots: The Gift'". Los Angeles Times.
- When the film first aired in December 1988, The Next Generation was in its second season, while the premieres of Deep Space Nine and Voyager were both years away.
- In 1992, Jerry Hardin appeared as Samuel Clemens in "Time's Arrow", the two-episode story arc from the fifth season finale and sixth season premiere of Star Trek: The Next Generation.